Multiple viewings of It's a Wonderful Life and radio airings of that schmaltzy "Christmas Shoes" song leave some tears still un-jerked? This tale will get them out of you. About 50 sick Cleveland kids -- many of them patients at the wonderfully named Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital -- got to take a special flight, Continental 9900, to The North Pole. The giddy kids -- many of whom had never been on a plane -- were helped on board by a crew of elves.
At this point I'm thinking this must be the most amazing charity undertaking ever, but it can't possibly be safe to take a bunch of kids, even healthy ones, to the harsh 24-hour night of the North Pole. Then I finally saw the parenthetical (they never left the ground). Okay I get it. While the plane taxis and the engines roar in mock flight, a group of volunteers puts the final touches on some faux snow, a bunch of gingerbread men, gifts, and Santa Claus. It was magic!
Betty Prischak, the Continental ticket agent who organizes the event (see, good people work for airlines despite your gripes!) describes to the Plain Dealer the girl who convinced her to take the job.
Her illness left her bald and a large jagged scar marked the place where a surgeon must have operated on her brain. The trip happened to be on her eighth birthday. And she said it was her best birthday ever.
Love that the kid with the sometimes unfortunate Christmastime birthday gets a little something extra on her day. And when this year's kids arrived:
The first child stepped off the flight -- a toddler in a red velvet dress. When the girl saw the sparkling North Pole, her tiny jaw dropped. She gazed at the gingerbread men to her right and then at the candy canes, bigger than her, on her left. Finally, she looked up and saw Rudolph's blinking nose. It was magic. For a moment, nothing else mattered.
Nothing else, indeed. Enough to melt even my jaded holiday heart.
And it's nice to see an utterly positive tale about air travel. My only question is how did the pat-downs go on these kids? Can you imagine if they'd gotten a little too aggressive on the "North-Pole" bound sick kids? That would make for the perfect storm of TSA outrage.
Image via Flickr/Beverly&Pack